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1 says Republican, 2 say hottie and the tourists quack

By ERNEST HOOPER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001


When you are riding in a 16-seat, 2 1/2-ton, 60-year-old amphibious vehicle painted loud yellow, people on the street take notice. More so, when you and your fellow passengers start quacking at them.

When you are riding in a 16-seat, 2 1/2-ton, 60-year-old amphibious vehicle painted loud yellow, people on the street take notice. More so, when you and your fellow passengers start quacking at them.

Duck Tours of Tampa Bay has been ferrying visitors around downtown Tampa in its unique truck for a month, giving them a history lesson while showing off the city from land and water. The Tampa tour begins on land at Newks Cafe and enters the water on Davis Islands. (There's also a tour in St. Pete that starts at The Pier.)

You can purchase duck calls to heighten the fun. As silly as it sounds, it's kind of contagious. I quickly became a quack addict.

And when the big truck, built for World War II, plunges into the water like Tom Cruise's Porsche in Risky Business, it's a thrill.

Louis and Jill Betz got the Duck Tour idea after taking a similar ride in Boston. At $18.50 for adults ($16.50 for seniors, $9.95 for kids 3-12), it's a little pricey. But no one was complaining on Thursday.

"I had a wonderful time," said New York visitor Irene D'Alessio. "It's a great way to see the city and the bay."

Call 813-960-8038 for Duck Tours.

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Finally figured out how to download those e-mail pictures from Pete Hines. If you recall, Pete was the Morgan Stanley financial adviser who took exception to Ladies Home Journal ranking Tampa's dating potential for women 106th out of 200 U.S. cities.

An informal panel of 12 females in the Times Tampa bureau took a look at Pete's pictures and declared him worth considering. Two said he's "a hottie," and another described him as looking "like a Republican." I think that's a compliment.

Seems to me we have a dilemma. Ladies Home Journal says women can't find men in Tampa. On the other hand, single guys like Pete, a seemingly decent chap, are saying, "Here I am." I'm soliciting suggestions. Let me know how you meet people outside the bar scene.

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The most interesting thing I learned on the Duck Tour: Tunnels used to run from Ybor City restaurants to the port to aid smuggling.

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"Grown Folks Night" has been drawing crowds to Universal Studios' Motown Cafe in Orlando on the first Friday of each month for more than a year now. Tampa's MLR Entertainment has been chartering buses to take people over for the fun.

Now Front-Line Promotions president Pat Nix is taking his "urban, upscale" show on the road. Saturday, Grown Folks Night comes to downtown Tampa at Club 901 (Cass and Franklin). The Phat Cat Players out of Tallahassee will perform live, and deejays will provide a mix of old school music. Doors open at 9:30 p.m.

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Natalie Jones is not a household name in Tampa, but every day thousands of people walk all over her distinctive contribution to our city: those unique carpet patterns with the sea life motif at Tampa International's baggage claim. You can see her carpet wizardry at Raymond James, too -- in the club seat lounge.

Now, Lees Carpets is relocating Jones to Atlanta. Our loss.

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By the way, Duck Tours has four vehicles: Huey, Dewey, Mallard and Disco.

- Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or hooper@sptimes.com. His column appears on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

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